Nearly 52.5 sq. km of land, or an area larger than Bagalkot town, will be submerged or built over for the contentious Mekedatu balancing reservoir and drinking water project.
While the pre-feasibility report for the project, which was prepared in June as part of environmental clearances, puts definite numbers to the large-scale submergence in the core area of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, it also shows that costs have shot up by over 50% in just two years.
In March 2017, a Government Order accorded the project administrative approval to be executed at a cost of ₹5,912 crore. However, in the pre-feasibility report and in the Cauvery Neeravari Nigam Ltd.’s (CNNL) submission to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the estimated cost of the project has been pegged at ₹9,000 crore.
The costs include a 99 m-high Concrete Gravity Dam, spillways of 318 m length, and three underground power units for which more than 2,000 tonnes of explosives will be used to excavate rock and sand in the middle of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, shows the pre-feasibility report. The sanctuary is home to several endemic or endangered species and is a key elephant and wildlife corridor. CNNL officials, who claim in the report that the Mekedatu project can be completed in four months, refused to comment on the project as it was still being heard by the Supreme Court.
report states that the project conforms to the Cauvery Tribunal verdict which states that state has the rights to “regulate within its boundaries the use of water, or to enjoy the benefit of waters within the State in a manner not inconsistent with the order.”